Kong Maharath, a simple fisherman, contacted his family from a fishing boat in Thailand to say someone intended to kill him. Then he disappeared…
The 38-year-old Lao native had set out on such trips before, from Port Phetchaburi. But this time after leaving in May, he used his cell phone to report trouble to his wife, Charipha. She told authorities, “He was working on the boat on May 28 when he called and told me that someone would kill him, and then he asked me to inform police and military to help him. On the night of May 29, the owner told me my husband had disappeared.”
Charipha told RFA she met with a representative of the Nor Douangdy 11 Company which owns the boat on June 30, where the owner told her he would take responsibility, but she added that the owner also “asked me not to inform the police because if the police know I will have to pay them.”
Charipha said her husband has lived legally in Thailand since 2006, and never has been in trouble.
A police official told RFA that his disappearance has caused an investigation of Thai police and military officers in Phetchaburi province. Said an officer at Bah Leam district police station, “Now the police and soldiers are investigating the cause of his death.” Officers declined to discuss the case. So did officials with the Thai and Lao government.
Working on a Thai fishing boat is notoriously dangerous. Not only is ocean fishing a hazardous occupation in itself, but the Thai fleet is known for abusing workers, and slave laborers are often used to fill out boat crews.The Thai government estimates that 80 percent of the 145,000 working in its fishing industry are migrant workers, mainly from Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos. According to United Nations estimates, the Thai fishing fleet consistently faces a shortage of about 50,000 mariners. The shortfall is filled primarily with migrant workers desperate for a job and people forced to work on the boats against their will.
Murder on Thai fleets is common, according to the United Nations Inter-Agency Project on Human Trafficking. Nearly 60 percent of trafficked migrants interviewed aboard Thai fishing vessels reported witnessing the murder of a fellow worker.
Authorities aren’t guessing about Kong’s disappearance, but officials think it’s more than an accident.
The Thai-based LPN was founded to address discrimination against migrant workers in Thailand and to combat human trafficking. NPF has been active in labor issues involving the Thai fishing fleet.
“Kong’s relatives, Lao embassy officials, and a foundation representative met the boat owner on June 15, but he disavowed any responsibility saying only that Kong Maharath had disappeared from the boat.”
“The boat was taken to a port and then the owner informed Kong’s wife afterwards, which is not right. The usual practice, if someone disappears on the boat, is that the boat isn’t allowed in port until there is an investigation of the cause.”
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